All good things come to an end though, and as the credits rolled Mia slid off the sofa and bounced on the rug. “Beep! Beep!” Her high pitched squeal made me wince.
Raina’s piping voice joined her sister’s raising the level of cacophony. Samantha reached for Raina to quiet her.
Mia’s smile widened and her hops took on a frightening forward motion.
“No!” Samantha grabbed for the little arm, but Mia giggled just out of reach and brushed my Christmas tree.
Terry’s grab overshot her and he crashed into the branches. Bells and crystal tinkled then an ornament shattered on the hearth.
Everyone froze. Terry’s eyes were round, brimming with tears as he turned to me. “I…I’m…” His chin trembled.
Our first Christmas ornament, a paper-thin porcelain bell, lay in glinting shards across the ceramic tile.
“It’s okay.” I swallowed a lump. If one of the tiny crystal angels, each unique had fallen, I’d just sweep it up, but the bell… How Tom’s face had lit up when we found it… My eyes were threatening to rival Terry’s as my tears welled.
Then I saw Samantha. She had rolled herself up as small as she could and was tucked back into the narrow gap between the sofa and my recliner.
Letting my vision of Tom go, I pasted on a smile. “Nothing the broom and dustpan won’t fix.”
Mia leaned over the wreckage, one chubby hand stretched toward the razor-sharp slivers.
“Mia.” My back groaned as I leaned over, tucking her into my arms. “Don’t touch. That’s an ouchie.”
I handed Mia off to Terry. “Let’s clean this up.” The broom made short work of the mess and as I tossed the bits of thirty-four year old memories into the trash can, Samantha slowly unwound. But her eyes were wary, watching my every move, calculating when I’d get angry.
I swallowed hard once more to clear my throat. The child needed me at my best.
“Why don’t we color now?” I grabbed the pile of coloring books I’d bought for them, and knelt down on creaking knees in the middle of the rug—well away from the tree. “Pick out a book. I’ve got enough for everyone.” And enough crayons, too. The three little boys settled in.
Mia and Raina’s eyes began to sink. Maybe a nap was in order for them.
I finally settled back into the recliner, pinned to my seat by the twins as their sleeping warmth weighed me down. Samantha picked up the bowls and I nodded at her. She stepped over Terry’s legs where he and the other boys sprawled on their tummies peacefully coloring away.
My eyes were as heavy as the girls’. The soft Christmas music wove its magic through the room. I’d be ready for a silent night when Cherie came to collect this crew.
I jerked awake. The doorbell had roused me, but it didn’t ring a second time. Samantha had opened the door to a blast of chill, damp air and Cherie’s smiling face.
“What a peaceful scene!” She lifted Mia off my lap as Samantha grabbed Raina.
“Won’t you take your coat off and warm up?”
“No. It’s high time I take this menagerie home for the day. Besides, you helped me finish up in record time by keeping them occupied. Nothing like Christmas shopping with the little grasping hands everywhere.” Cherie’s smile deepened. “You’re a good friend for helping out this way.”
Jo-Jo tugged at his mother’s jacket. “Terry broke a ormanent!”
Cherie’s eyes narrowed as she pinned the culprit in her focus.
“I was catching Mia! She nearly climbed the tree.” His deep brown eyes were welling again. “Honest, Miss Cherie.”
“Really, Miss Laura Grace?” Cherie’s eyes demanded truth. “Is that the way it went down?”
Cherie’s focus shifted to Samantha’s white face as she nodded over Raina’s head. “Samantha and Terry are great toddler wranglers.” I smiled at the two older children. “I couldn’t have managed without them.” I patted Mia’s back as she blinked sleepily from Cherie’s arms. “Think nothing of it.” My heart twinged a bit at my word’s reassurance, but it was better. Not the heartsick ache I’d expected.
Cherie nodded, satisfied. “Okay then. Time to head ‘em up and move ‘em out.”
“I’m not done yet.” Jamie grabbed for the box of crayons Samantha was filling.
Jo-Jo fumbled at his pocket trying to hide a couple of crayons, but Samantha pried them loose.
“Take the coloring books and crayons with you, boys.” I rose stiffly.
“Can I stay and help Miss Laura Grace clean up?” Samantha looked from me to Cherie. “Please.”
“It’s okay with me.” I smiled at her. “I could use the help. Tom did most of the cleaning. What do you say, Cherie?”
She shrugged. “It’s okay with me if you want to. I’ll come—”
“No, I’ll bring her home when we’re done.”
“Okay, Laura Grace. If you say so. Let’s get this crew into their coats.”
Have a happy week among all the preparations. I'll finish this scene all the way out next Tuesday. ;-)